The zombie genre is often called tired, and ‘cleverly’ noted as constantly coming back from the dead, but these takes always ignore that, at its core, zombie films are about human nature in the face of the end of everything we know. Manga adaptation, I AM A HERO, centers on the nature of an average 35-year-old, Hideo, and his every opportunity to live up to the kanji characters in his name, which spell “Hero.”
Coming to terms with his never quite off-the-ground manga career and his sudden breakup, Hideo gripes with his average life. When confronted with a” ZQN” outbreak, which turns people into barely sentient zombies stuck in loops of their previous beings, Hideo must try his best to live out his fantasy of being a hero, for the sake of his life.
This film covers all the bases of a few seasons of The Walking Dead and feels almost as long. There are a few twists on the zombies’ behaviour, but ultimately, HERO follows the same pattern as other films in the saturated zombie genre.
The film is beautifully shot with expert stills fit for wall size posters. Most notable are the uncut long shots that seem utterly impossible. As the weight of the outbreak comes apparent to Hideo, we are treated with a long uncut shot of him running through the anarchic streets of Japan. The zombie hordes, driving cars, and humans turning into zombies before our eyes are expertly choreographed and almost unbelievable to see.
Though, my favourite element of this Japanese take on the zombie theme is when Hideo goes to check on his ex-girlfriend, Tekko, and finds her a little “under the weather.” Miho Suzuki, as zombie Tekko, plays it as the classic Japanese demon fans of J-Horror will be familiar with. It is such a cool mashup of classic J-Horror and Zombie that had me jump out of my seat to cheer.
Early in the film, we are introduced to Hiromi, who after suffering a small bite from an infected baby, takes longer than usual to turn into a ZQN. She remains somewhat sentient and comes to the rescue of the Hideo on their way up Mount Fuji. For the remainder of the movie, she becomes literal dead weight and is tragically underused. There are multiple opportunities for her to use her abilities and the film never allows it. She is the loaded gun in act one that never fires in act three.
I would be remise to ignore the outdated rape culture peppered into this film. There are arguments over the “possession” of a half dead high school girl, and a villain details rape of a character in a way that is clunky at best, and an unnecessary way to drive home just how “bad” the “bad guy” truly is.
While ultimately formulaic, this film is a fun zombie romp, complete with genuinely good scares, and fun gore. It is filled with beautiful tableaus and is certainly a worthy recommendation for those who want to see some undead hordes get obliterated.